The Care of Souls and the Rhetoric of Moral Teaching in Bonaventure and Thomas

The Care of Souls and the Rhetoric of Moral Teaching in Bonaventure and Thomas

The Care of Souls and the Rhetoric of Moral Teaching in Bonaventure and Thomas

The Care of Souls and the Rhetoric of Moral Teaching in Bonaventure and Thomas

Excerpt

Working on the assumption that truth is best served by a multitude of voices, in 1987 the Departments of Philosophy and Theology at St. Bonaventure University jointly sponsored the annual St. Bonaventure Lectures, a Series of three lectures occurring during Francis Week in the early Fall. The original intent of the Series was to bring to campus distinguished scholars in the field of St. Bonaventure studies in order to present some aspect of St. Bonaventure’s thought to an upper-level undergraduate audience. Given the “Franciscan tradition” of the University, the Series attempted to articulate that tradition in terms of its rich intellectual history. If St. Bonaventure is seen as the philosophical and theological interpreter of the lived experience of Francis, it is fitting that a Franciscan University give voice to St. Bonaventure’s remarkable philosophical and theological synthesis.

The first lectures tended to situate the thought of St. Bonaventure against the background of the works of St. Thomas in such a way as to highlight the unique features of St. Bonaventure’s work as well as to give a more central place to the Augustinian and Neoplatonic aspects of the Catholic philosophical tradition. As Professor Etienne Gilson was to point out, there were two equally remarkable and distinct philosophical and theological syntheses to emerge from the 13th century—Bonaventure and Thomas. St. Bonaventure is not, as is often claimed, a Thomist who has “fallen short of the mark” because of various administrative duties, rather; he is a brilliant Augustinian/Franciscan scholar who recognized the serious shortcomings of any Christian Aristotelianism. To Bonaventure’s mind, the world can be conceptualized in at least two ways—either as a collection of independently–existing things or natures to be cataloged and described as Aristotle does, or as signs or symbols having an essential reference beyond themselves. This second way of seeing the world has much more in common with Plato and Augustine than with Aristotle. To hold that Nature is in some sense sign or symbol, as St. Bonaventure does, commits one to a philosophy having more in common with modern Hermeneutics than with Aristotelian Biology.

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